Government Law Center Releases New Explanation on How Voting Rights Law Applies in the 21st Century


Newswise – ALBANY, NY – The Government Law Center (GLC) at Albany Law School has just released its latest explainer to help lawyers, politicians and the public understand the challenges of law enforcement voting rights in the 21st century.

While the 1965 Voting Rights Act aimed to rectify Jim Crow’s discriminatory laws in primarily southern states that shorten the 15th Amendment voting rights of many African Americans, GLC Legal Director Richard Rifkin points out that the effectiveness of the law “is determined not only by its substantive provisions, but also by the strength of its enforcement mechanisms. The Voting Rights Act contains two such mechanisms, Article 2 and Article 5, which have changed considerably in the last decade alone.

Section 2 allows legal challenges – which can be brought by the federal government, individuals or private groups – for courts to hear and determine whether the challenge requests prove that a state violates the amendment or the law. In July, the Supreme Court interpreted this article and guided future courts on how to approach many challenges. Rifkin explores the “landmarks” from this decision in the Explicator and how they actually made challenges more difficult.

Section 5 is unique in that it requires that in “covered” jurisdictions, any law or other change in electoral procedures must first be approved by the United States Attorney General or a three-judge federal court beforehand. that the change can take effect. These jurisdictions were mostly in the southern states when the law was passed, but in 2013 the Supreme Court issued a ruling that effectively eliminated this requirement for prior approval unless and until Congress takes decisions. measures. Rifkin explores how this decision made Section 5 much less impactful in the Explanator.

Overall, Rifkin points out that the application of the voting rights law is very different today than it was when it was enacted or even when the law was last amended in 2006. Although the essential purpose of the law remains the same today and is still recognized as one of the most important actions of Congress of the twentieth century, the application of the law by sections 2 and 5 is much more difficult than in the past.

The Explanator is the latest in a series from the GLC that concisely describes the law that applies to important public policy issues. The GLC has also created Explainers on Political Redistribution in New York State, Immigration, Aging, and Policing Policy.

Read the explanation here.

About Albany Law School

Albany Law School is a small private school located in the heart of the New York State capital where it has been training leaders since 1851. The institution offers students an innovative and rigorous curriculum taught by a committed faculty. It has an affiliate agreement with the University of Albany which includes shared programs and access for students and faculty to learn from each other. Students have access to New York’s highest court, federal courts, the executive branch, and the state legislature. With approximately 10,500 alumni practicing across the country and on multiple continents, Albany Law graduates are a vital community and resource for the school and its students. The school offers the JD – the traditional law degree – as well as a residential and online master’s and LL.M. programs, as well as online advanced certificate programs.

The Government Law Center helps state and local governments better serve their communities while training the next generation of leaders in public service. We are a diverse and inclusive group of practitioners, students and academics working together to produce high quality, reliable, and non-partisan legal research and analysis.


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